Posts Tagged ‘cyberpunk’

Kicking cyberpunk’s ass

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

SF Signal reviewed the book: they didn’t really like it (well, to be precise, they said it was a “decent read with some major flaws that keep it from reaching greatness.”) But hey, one of the things that every new author has to recognize is that (gasp) not everybody is gonna love your novel. Yet what really got my attention was this:

Stephen Baxter, on the back cover, calls Mirrored Heavens ‘a crackling cyberthriller.’ Well, if you’re looking for cyberpunk, you won’t find it here. True, the two-man teams consist of a Razor (hacker) and a Mech (muscle), with the Razor providing network backup and support for the Mech. However, just because the Razors can access the Zone (network) and work some heavy duty magic doesn’t make this book cyberpunk. Yes the world of this future is a dystopia, but the characters here aren’t from the bottom of society, fighting against the government or corporations, they are the government, and far from fighting for the little guy, they are fighting to save the status quo.

This is fascinating to me, all the more so as I totally disagree.  At its heart, I take cyberpunk to be about the interface of humans to technology in a world where the tech is so immersive that humans are (almost literally) inside that tech, and vice versa.  As to where it goes from there:  it’s true that the dominant strand of cyberpunk thus far has focused on the predicament of the “lone wolf” fighting against corporate interests.  But I have yet to see the Cyberpunk Rulebook that says this is a necessity in order to merit inclusion within the subgenre.

And even if you showed it to me, I’d throw it out the window and get back to my work.  Because I think this kind of literal “checkboxing” isn’t just intellectually lazy:  it’s proof that cyberpunk, like any genre that’s been around for a while, needs a good kick in the ass every once in a while to keep the circulation going.  In fact, it’s ironic that a genre that was founded on an ethos of rebellion should try to dictate rules about Just How Bad-Ass a Noir Hero You Need To Be in order to be included.  But consider this:  if cyberpunk is fundamentally about alienation (and I think it is) .  . . why assume that those who are charged with defending the status quo are any less conflicted or alienated than those who fight it?

Especially when it turns out that the status quo just ain’t what anyone thought it was.